The most important new woman in Congress is not who you think

Ever since November’s tectonic midterms, in my conversations with party strategists as well as nonpartisan operatives involved in the variety of efforts to get more veterans elected, Sherrill’s name not only kept coming up but typically was the first one mentioned. “So impressive,” Rye Barcott of With Honor told me. “No ceiling,” said Emily Cherniack of New Politics. “A rising star,” added Carrie Rankin, the former chief of staff to Massachusetts congressman Seth Moulton. Dan Sena, the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told me Sherrill could be a governor, or a senator, and soon. “She’s a future fill-in-the-blank for the party,” Sena said. Republicans I’ve talked to concur.

The root of this big talk is the nature of her victory. She won as a first-time candidate in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District, which stretches from commuter enclaves just west of New York City toward the more bucolic northwestern portion of the state—and hadn’t voted for a Democrat in 34 years. She raised record money, chased into retirement a powerful local political scion, trounced a host of opponents in the primary and drubbed a conservative state assemblyman in the general. Sherrill did this by campaigning not as a left-leaning incendiary but as a less partisan alternative. And one of the most conspicuous ways she assuaged redder voters was by promising she wouldn’t vote for Pelosi for speaker. It was by no means the foundation of her race; neither, though, was it a pledge those who disdain the longtime Democrat leader would be likely to forget.